you’re going to face this kind of thing on a daily basis. But with a regular pet grooming routine, the hair-raising problems that plague long-haired cats and their owners will soon disappear. We’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Hanen Abdel Rahman, to give us some expert tips on caring for long-haired cats.
How to groom your long-haired cat
As you’ll have gathered, taking care of a long-haired cat’s fur starts with regularly grooming their coat, ideally once a day, or even twice a day during moulting season. To make sure your cat willingly accepts this routine, it’s best to get them started young. Otherwise, you’ll need a lot of patience and determination! Take things slowly and have some treats ready as a reward. Clicker training can also prove effective.
In addition to an obliging cat, you’ll also need the right material. We recommend using a fairly wide-toothed comb (avoid plastic combs which create static) and starting with the tail, paws, and body, before brushing your cat’s head. Remember to work in the direction of the hair growth first, finishing in the opposite direction to get rid of any knots and to fluff up their coat. Brush gently so as to avoid hurting them.
A bath from time to time
Cats wash themselves naturally by licking themselves, but you can still give your cat a bath from time to time (no more than three or four times a year) to prevent their coat from getting too greasy and to restore its shine and volume. There are two golden rules, however: use a special shampoo for cats and brush your cat well beforehand to get rid of any knots before you bathe them.
Brush your long-haired cat daily with a pin brush to prevent the fur from matting and tangling. Gently brush her body, belly, tail, chin, and legs. If you groom your little furball daily for just a few minutes at a time, you won’t have to brush her in longer sessions.
How the Pros Do It:
Trim your cat’s claws.
Your cat may become excited or scared when covered in water, so to decrease the damage they may cause, trim their nails before you give them a bath. Try to do this a few hours or even a day or two before the bath so they have time to calm down bathing. Take care to cut at a point which will not cause pain or bleeding.
Giving your kitty treats as a reward for getting their nails trimmed will always make them feel better and calmer.
Brush your cat. Do not skip this step.
Brushing the cat will help remove any knots and tangles in the fur, which will be much more difficult and painful to remove once your cat is wet. If your kitty likes getting brushed, then you can use the brush to make the kitty feel more at home in the tub.
Sometimes you can even brush your cat as a way to distract them enough to allow their nails to be trimmed. This is a great way of killing two birds with one stone, but you’ll need another person to help you.
Get the right cat shampoo.
You can get kitty shampoo from your vet or local pet store. Check the instructions to see if it’s right for your cat, and dilute it with water if necessary. Using regular human shampoo can not only dry out your cat’s skin but can be toxic for your cat. Don’t use dog shampoo in a pinch, either. You’re better off using water rather than a product that can harm your cat.
You may want a washcloth for massaging the shampoo onto your cat’s body, but your hands may actually be better for this.
Lastly, it’s important to note that your cat’s diet is the main way to ensure your cat has a healthy coat. Make sure their diet is balanced and meets all of their nutritional needs. You can also give your cat some beer yeast, a natural supplement which is well known for its beneficial effects on their coat.
Make your cat want to bathe.
The first thing you should do is tire your kitty out, so they are at their most mellow before they enter the water. This will make them less likely to bite, scratch, or to try to getaway. Pick a time when your kitty is at their calmest — often after they have been fed. If they still act hyper, play with them as much as you can until they are worn out. Here are some other ways to get your kitty adjusted to the bath before you start bathing them:
Put some cat toys in the empty tub.
Place your cat in it and play for a few minutes. Then stop and add a little water before playing again. By doing so, you’ll get your cat used to the tub and water. Bath time will soon be associated with something pleasant and non-threatening.
You could also have a special toy just for bath time, such as a mouse on a string or something that floats. Only allow your cat to play with this toy in the tub and it will inspire him to look forward to bathing, instead of fearing it.
You can also create positive associations with baths by offering your cat its favorite treat before and after bathing or by giving it gentle head or belly scratches as you wash it
Soak your kitty from the neck down.
Use a little bit of shampoo and water to wash your cat’s neck, body, legs, belly, and tail. Start at the neck and work toward their tail, in the direction of the growth of their fur. Wash the cat in a massaging motion, so they feel soothed, not scared. Act like you’re just petting and grooming your cat and that this trip to the bathtub is nothing special.
Keep shampoo out of your cats eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
To minimize the risk of creating an ear infection, put a cotton ball—a small wad of soft material used to stop up a wound or an opening—in each ear. Don’t forget to take them out at the end of the bath. Cotton may also reduce the noise and make your job easier.
If you are giving your cat a flea bath, wet the area around its neck first. Fleas will try to escape to the dry areas of the cat, which can mean a mass exodus of fleas to the head and face while you are bathing. A wet neck will keep them off the head, and in contact with the water and flea shampoo.
Wash your kitty’s face with water and a washcloth.
There’s no need to take the risk of upsetting and hurting your cat by getting shampoo or soap in their eyes. Take a wet washcloth and gently run it along your kitty’s face, brushing the fur away from their eyes and nose, until their face, head, and ears are nice and clean.
You may want to consider leaving this for another time and call it quits after getting the bath done unsuccessfully.
Don’t ever force your cat’s face underwater. This is guaranteed to make them panic.
Use a wet washcloth, if your cat really protests being bathed.
It removes the outer dirt and cleans it well. You can find treated cloths at pet stores that need no water to groom the cat. They even have a pleasant scent.
Instead of a washcloth, you can also use a sprayer to clean your cat rather than dunking it into a bath.
Blot the water from your cat.
Take a towel and gently press as much water as you can from the fur. Then, wrap your cat in the towel and rub gently. When the towel gets too wet to be effective, switch to another dry towel. Don’t stop until only the towel(s) are only wet.
When you blot the water from your kitty, do it in a gentle motion, as if you’re massaging them. Also consider warming the towels in the dryer first, as many cats find this comforting.
Again, work with your cat. If they won’t allow you to keep drying with the towels, respect that and stop.
Finish drying your cat.
Short-haired cats can finish drying themselves in the bathroom as long as they’re away from drafts. They will appreciate a heat source (space heater or warm air vent) and a dry towel to sit on. With long-haired cats, you will have to use a comb and more towels. Long hairs mat more easily when wet, so you might want to comb the coat until it is completely dry.
If your cat is not scared of a hairdryer, you can use a dryer set on warm, not hot, to finish drying your cat from a distance. Avoid using a hot blow dryer on any cat as it may burn them and cause more trauma.
You can also gently brush your kitty’s fur to get rid of any knots or tangles. This can be especially helpful for a long-haired cat.
Reward your cat.
This is a must. If you want your cat to ever want to take a bath again, you must give them a positive association with the process. Give their favorite wet food, catnip, or other treats. You can even give him an even more indulgent treat that you save for exceptionally rare occasions. If they associate bathing with receiving delicious treats, your cat will be clamoring for another go in the bathtub in no time at all.